Headed to Colombia in February

3 Jan

I’ll be escaping the Seattle winter rains and heading for equatorial South America in mid-February. I’ll be visiting three spots in Colombia:


The capital city sits at an altitude of 8,600 feet, so it won’t be very warm. It’s a huge city, with a population of 8.8 million people. Highlights of my 2-and-a-half days there: The Gold Museum and possibly going to a soccer match.


800px-CartagenaNext I fly an hour or so north to the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena. This place is going to be hot and likely quite photogenic. The walled colonial city is filled with colorful buildings, cobblestone streets and boisterous restaurant crowds spilling out into the squares. Here’s the B&B I’m hoping to stay at for four nights. A little further away, the waterfront is a wall of apartment towers.

San Andres Island

800px-SanAndres-Island-ViewI had never heard of this place until I started doing research about Colombia. The island, a 90-minute flight west from Cartegena, is politically part of Colombia, but is actually much closer to the coast of Nicaragua. If the pictures and stories are for real, the dazzling blue waters around this place ought to offer fantastic snorkeling. The B&B I’ve booked looks like a fun place, away from any really touristy areas.

Oh and if you’re wondering about Colombia’s reputation for violence and drup cartels, well, they say that’s all changed — at least in the areas I’m headed to. Head out into the more remote jungles and all bets are off!

Apartment makeover: How it went down

25 Dec This is what it looked like Dec. 21, three months after the makeover began. It wasn't done at this point, though.
This is what it looked like Dec. 21, three months after the makeover began. It wasn't done at this point, though.

This is what it looked like Dec. 21, three months after the makeover began. It wasn’t done at this point, though.

A few people had asked, so here’s a recap of what I got and how I got it, in rough order from earliest to latest.

Why I did it

I’d been talking about getting new furniture and redecorating for at least three years. What actually made it happen is that the owner of my apartment building decided it was finally time to do one of his long-put-off projects: replacing the windows in the whole building. I jumped on that train by letting him know that because the work would be disruptive, why not kill three birds with one stone and replaster/repaint my apartment, and replace the carpet. So it took over a month to get that done.

For replacing carpet and repainting, it’s best to have the apartment cleared of almost everything. So I dumped, gave away or sold almost all the furniture in my place. For a while, I even slept over at a friend’s house. Or I slept in the middle of my living room, getting high from paint fumes.

The living room radiator was removed, which meant the wall behind it had to be replastered.

The living room radiator was removed, which meant the wall behind it had to be replastered.

One thing they did was report all of the old dilapidated cast iron radiators. They just took up space in each main room. Moving those suckers was a bitch!

The paint is all from Parker Paint in Seattle, with semi-gloss white trim throughout, a pale green (called Creeping Mint) for living room and a wonderful warm gray for the bedroom, appropriately called “Seattle Gray.”

When they were done in late October, the furniture and decor shopping began in earnest.

The Bed

Even though I wanted to do the living room first, sleeping on an air mattress was kind of a drag. I ended up getting a queen-size Hogla mattress from Ikea. It’s really firm, and I’m a little nervous about the quality, but so far so good. The mattress (no box spring because I’m getting a platform bed) was $525. (All prices include tax and shipping if applicable.)

About My Design Goals

I started out thinking I wanted to go for a mid-century look. As my shopping went on — and as I got feedback from friends — it moved a little away from mid-century per se and more toward an eclectic mix. I wanted the pieces to be comfortable, reflective of me, untypical, untraditional, colorful and creative.

As for my budget, I kind of approached it this way: no cheap stuff if I could help it, like Ikea particle-board crap, but no small-car-priced pieces either. And I was willing to spend a little more on a particular item crucial to the theme as long as it wasn’t way overpriced.

Before I go any further, I’ve got to tip a hat to one of the best single online resources I used for my furniture shop. It’s a Huffpo article listing 43 of the best places to shop for furniture online. This is browsing heaven. The “flash sale” sites are a lot of fun because the offerings change so frequently.

And of course, Pinterest was a big help too. I used it as an archive of random things I saw while browsing, and friends could use it to either add their own suggestions or comment on things I’d posted. I weeded stuff out constantly to keep it uncluttered. Here’s my Pinterest page for this project.

On and beware the reviews on product pages online: I tried to submit two reviews to two different sites that contained a little bit of negative information and they were both rejected. So if you see nothing but positive reviews about sometime, take them with a grain of salt.

The Dining Table

The custom table the day after it arrived at its new home. Hat tip to Andrew Matson for helping me go get it in Tacoma!

The custom table the day after it arrived at its new home. Hat tip to Andrew Matson for helping me go get it in Tacoma!

The first thing I ordered was a custom-made dining table for six made from reclaimed barn wood. The craftsman is a former journalist who works out of a bungalow in North Tacoma. He has a shop on Etsy that I stumbled upon in my searching.

A word about Etsy.com: I had never been to the site before, but I found it be amazing. I must have spent hours flipping through the galleries of homemade furniture.

And I uncovered a gem in Jeff Libby‘s little store. He loves the character of the wood, and it really shows in his work. Just read the glowing reviews from his customers on Etsy.

We worked out the dimensions and he even took a look at the colors of the couch I was thinking about and the walls, so he could use that info as he selected the pieces of wood for the tabletop. As you can see from the photos, the table has a strong hint of mid-century-ness because it has hairpin legs.

It would be seven weeks from order date to pickup, but that worked in my timeline because seven weeks was the span of time I was hoping to complete most of the living/dining project.

The final product was beautiful and full of character — and a real bargain at $766 (although I see the price has gone up slightly since then).

The Couch

On left, what the ad showed. On right, what it actually looked like when delivered.

On left, what the ad showed. On right, what it actually looked like when delivered.

I toyed with the idea of getting a leather couch, but ultimately could not find one that I liked in my price range.

While surfing the JC Penney website late one night, I came across the Darrin fabric sofa. I liked the gray color, and the tufted cushions gave it a classy look. At at 89 inches long, pretty of room to stretch out on it. And yes, it had a slightly mid-century feel.

The time from ordering to delivery was only two weeks. The guys brought it up and unpacked it — gotta give props to the whole delivery process.

However, it wasn’t gray as depicted on their website. It was a really dark navy blue! I thought about returning it, but what a hassle. I decided I would just make do. In the end, the darker color works just fine.

And it was a bargain at $983 delivered.

The Arm Chair

The Noah leather chair from Kasala. Super comfy!

The Noah leather chair from Kasala. Super comfy!

This is where I managed to sneak in the leather piece.

I loved the leather chairs at Kasala, a store that is unique to Seattle, I think. And if going with leather wasn’t crazy enough, I decided to go with white leather. The Noah chair was comfortable and on sale for $383. Done!

The problem with Kasala is they don’t have a website really. There are no specific webpages for each product. I can’t imagine how they are still in business without one.

The Dining Chairs

Two of the six wire dining chairs to go with the new custom table.

Two of the six wire dining chairs to go with the new custom table.

Knowing the wood table was on order, I needed to find a set of six chairs that would go with it. The only thing I knew going in was that I didn’t want anything formal or traditional.

After probably hours of searching, entering phrases like “modern dining chairs,” I came across these Bertoia-Style Wire Side Chairs on the InStyleModern website. These are imitations of famous Bertoia wire chairs that debuted in 1952. You can still buy the originals here, but they go for $590 apiece. I paid $535 total for the set of six.

They may not be the most comfortable to sit in for a long time, but they are quite beautiful.

Oh and I’ve ordered a couple of alternate seat pads in green and gray at the suggestion of a certain friend who said “I like mismatched things.” :-)

The Surprise

The Element iron cabinet.

The Element iron cabinet.

One rainy night I went store-hopping with my friend Susan down around Southcenter Mall. One of the last stops was the huge Dania furniture store. I was primarily looking at area rugs, coffee tables and end tables.

But what caught Susan’s eye was a tall silver (iron) cabinet. “But I’m not looking for anything like that,” I said. To which she replied, “You should get it and put it in the corner next to the new table.” At which point I said, “It’s one thousand dollars.”

“Just buy it,” she said. And so two days later I went back down there, took another look at it, and bought it. She was right.

I was hoping that something in the room would have an industrial/steel look to it, and this fit the bill.

This Element cabinet by Four Hands was the last of a discontinued item at Dania, although I did later find it for sale at Area 51 in Seattle, on the West Elm website, and at one other online store. All of these had it for a much higher price than the $1,039 it ended up costing me.

The Area Rug

The bold new area rug from Overstock.com.

The bold new area rug from Overstock.com.

I was really counting on this piece to bring something dynamic to the room. No traditional design here.

I must have looked at thousands of rugs online. Buying a rug online is a little tricky because you can’t be absolutely sure of the color. But, the selection and price are far and away better than what you can find at local stores, so there’s really no choice.

The zigzag pattern I ended up liking the most also got the stamp of approval from my design consultants Susan and Carmen. It’s called the Hand-hooked Fandango Multi Rug (7’6″-by-9’6″), and I ordered it from Overstock.com. Within 10 days or so of ordering, it was delivered. It cost me $315.

Wow, it’s dramatic all right. It’s such a dominating pattern that it will be difficult to get decor for the rest of the room that has any pattern to it – because it would clash.

But I like it a lot.

End Tables

The LÖVBACKEN side table from Ikea, a new item for 2014.

The LÖVBACKEN side table from Ikea, a new item for 2014.

Hunting for these was actually really challenging. Again, I must have looked at hundreds of possibilities online. I was even considering a pair of vintage two-tiered mid-century coffee tables with Formica tops. And by now I had enough stuff in the room so that I knew some things I didn’t want – like no more metal, because I already had enough of that.

One day I was doing Google image searches and came across the perfect side table. Turns out it was a new item in the 2014 Ikea catalog called the LÖVBACKEN side table. They are mid-century style, but they are beautiful and unusual. And the best part — I got the pair for a mere $131.

Entertainment Stand

The Lydia table from Urban Outfitters all loaded up with components and flanked by top-rated bookshelf-sized speakers from Pioneer.

The Lydia table from Urban Outfitters all loaded up with components and flanked by top-rated bookshelf-sized speakers from Pioneer.

Have you ever noticed how little variety there is in styles of TV stands? You got your woodgrain and black particle board and that pretty much covers most of what’s available out there.

At one point I was pretty sure I was going to go Ikea again, because they sell metal cabinets in either white or red. But then I found out the doors don’t allow remotes to work, so that was out.

After wracking my brain for untold hours, I finally figured out that I could get away with a less-wide stand if I moved the location of the TV. That turned out to be a great idea, because doing so made the main space seem a little bigger.

I found the Lydia table on Urbanoutfitters.com, and it appeared to be pretty much the exact size I wanted. It’s woodgrain veneer (with particle board at its core), but its saving grace was a mid-century-style look. And it was only $196 shipped.

This was the first time I had to ship something back though. There were a couple of noticeable veneer chips, and there were pieces missing from the bag of screws. I give them credit for super-fast turnaround on shipping a replacement and having UPS pick up the repacked defective one. The replacement had all the pieces and only one small veneer flaw that is hardly noticeable.

Coffee Table

The two concrete-topped tables that form a coffee table. You can see the damaged corner in the lower right.

The two concrete-topped tables that form a coffee table. You can see the damaged corner in the lower right.

Another tricky hunt. See, the thing is, I really dislike glass coffee tables because I injure myself walking into them. And I didn’t want much more in the way of white, woodgrain or metal.

So Etsy.com came to the rescue again. I was browsing for unusual modern coffee tables and came upon one that had a concrete top. Now this concept intrigued me for several reasons. 1) the gray color would work well with the dark couch and white leather chair, and with the rug; and 2) it would certainly be unusual.

Ultimately I ended up going with something called bunching tables – essentially two smaller tables pushed together to make a larger coffee table.

The pair of tables from Patrick Cain was $400 plus $100 more for shipping from L.A. This is one of those cases where it was more costly than expected for the item, but it was the right thing, so worth a little extra cost.

Unfortunately, one of the two table tops arrived damaged. Who knew concrete could be so fragile? Also, the table tops are more “splotchy” than I expected. I have achieved the goal of getting something unusual, I guess, but they are not as fulfilling as I had hoped.

The replacement for the damaged top arrived three weeks later and had some problems: 1) the screws to mount to the cube frame were poorly mounted and in the wrong places, so the top doesn’t fit the frame. This despite my sending precise measurements and pictures of where they should be; and 2) the finish/color of the concrete top was lighter than the previous two tops, so the new top looks odd when placed next to the original top. I’m going to have to figure out some way to make this work. I think I may try to repair the one that has the broken corner.

So, my Etsy experiences: You win some, you lose some. With the table, it worked great. However, with this concrete experiment, not so much. Much more quality control needed.

The Ottoman, Or Pouf, Or Whatever You Want To Call It

The Ormond ottoman from Pier 1.

The Ormond ottoman from Pier 1.

My friend Susan spied this when we were scoping out Pier 1’s awesome decor stuff. She thought the teal color would work with my rug and furniture and she was right.

The Ormond Ottoman can serve as an ottoman, or as a stool, or as a side table. People just love sitting on it though. And it’s unusual look adds an interesting item to the room. It cost $132.


From left: The Aqua Glass Floor Lamp; the Ikea Hemma base with Umfors shade; and the three-headed monster from Kasala.

From left: The Aqua Glass Floor Lamp; the Ikea Hemma base with Umfors shade; and the three-headed monster from Kasala.

It’s a crucial element in any interior design, and I must admit I’m pretty weak at figuring this part out.

The first item I got was a floor lamp that I think works great next to the white leather chair: the Pier 1 Aqua Glass Floor Lamp. It was $219.

The next item is probably the one I’m least confident about: the Three-Armed Polished Steel Floor Lamp. I got mine at Kasala for $294. I was looking for something that could offer light for both the dining table and the couch area. But I think this might be a bit of overkill.

The last item was a very cheap ($30?) and not-very-substantial table lamp from Ikea. It’s the Hemma base with Umfors Shade, although it differs from the one in the picture at right because mine has a black stalk and base. I’ll probably use this somewhere else and find something better for the living-room table lamp.

Throws And Pillows

The Nesbit Multi pillow cover from Crate & Barrel.

The Nesbit Multi pillow cover from Crate & Barrel.

I’m totally out of my element when it comes to this kind of thing. Accessorizing! Ack!

I know that these things add the finishing touches on the decor, before I have a heard time getting the right styles and colors. Here are a couple of the things I ended up getting (and I’m sure I’ll have to get some more):

- A great lumbar pillow called the Nesbit Multi from Crate & Barrel. Pricey at $55, but I think it goes perfect with my couch.

- The Malin Band throw from Ikea, $22. I looks good draped over an arm of the white leather chair.

I bought mustard and green pillows too, but those didn’t work out as well. Maybe burgundy would be good. I got a burgundy throw for the couch and it matches pretty well.

Things For The Walls

This is the part that is still very much a work in progress. All I’ve done so far is mount some of the photos of my travels in cheap frames.

What I’m hoping to get within the next couple of months:

- Real, honest to God art on canvas. I have a certain friend who might help me achieve this goal. :-)

- I think a mirror is a nice element for a living room or entry way, but I’m not sure I have the right wall for it at this point. If I get one, it might be this Porthole mirror. It would have to be on the opposite side of the room from the iron cabinet though, to avoid being too heavy into metal.

- A wall-mounted shelf up above the TV with some interesting elements adorning it. Something like this.

What’s Next?

Sigh – I’ve got the bedroom to do!

It’s a wrap: Days 11, 12 and 13 in Brazil

23 Feb


I’m now 34,000 feet over the Amazon on my flight home. Bye bye, Brazil. Hello wintry America.

The last few days, which were spent in the resort area of Santa Catarina Island, Brazil, were pretty uneventful – exact as I planned. I went to the beach a few times, did a little shopping, rocked in a hammock outside my room.

On Thursday I took my one and only tour of the whole trip. It was a seven-hour boatride to an island that is a kind of preserve. The boat ride took 90 minutes each way — and I’m glad I took Dramamine because it got bumpy. Amazed no one got sick on the boat.

Anyway the four hours on Campeche Island wasn’t nearly enough for me. The green waters reminded me of Thailand, and I think I had a hard time capturing the real beauty of it with my camera. I signed up for a 90-minute hike to see archeological sites, but mostly I just wanted to see the other side of the island. The tour guide spoke only Portuguese so I had to guess at what he was saying. Basically, people who lived on the island 5,000 years ago did some cool rock art.

In the end, the Florianopolis experience was damned relaxing. And the inn I stayed at should be Four Star Diamond on the strength of the wonderful propriator, Ida. I felt like the $50 a night I paid was robbery – me robbing her! That included an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit, bread, cheese, yogurt and juice. I’ll miss the fruit for sure, such as the guava Ida grows and harvests herself. The name of the place, if you should ever go, is Pousada Marujo.

And now comes the final thoughts, the things I’ll remember about the people and places I found in this first – and hopefully not last – trip to Brazil:

- People warn you about the crime, but really it’s the same as anywhere else – there are some tough parts where you just have to be careful and not stupid. A couple of people bugged me, but I just shrugged them off and kept walking.

- I love the local buses. But travelers be warned: Not even the special airport buses are built to accommodate luggage. Makes no sense.

- Meat is king in Brazil. Well, meat and fruit. Veggies not so much. It was hard to try to eat healthy in a place overflowing with bread, cheese and sweet, sugary drinks.

- If you’re lucky enough to really meet actual Brazilians, you will come away a better person. They’re fun-loving, smart and full of a love for their country, and their soccer team.

- My trip took place in the middle of February, which is late summer on the bottom half of the world. That means heat, and lots of it. I’m fairly sure I didn’t have a night when it got below 75 degrees F. And several days had heat index levels over 100. In my 12 nights of lodging, I had air-conditioning only for the first two. That meant a fan for 10 nights, and with that kind of heat, a fan just can’t cut it. If come here in summer again, I will have to book rooms with AC.

- This is a great place to go if you want to avaid other Americans! I only ran into them when I went to the most famous attractions in Rio. On the boat trip to Campeche, there were four of us Americans on a boat with 40 or 50 people. Only 13 percent of Brazil’s foreign tourists come from the U.S. And that’s too bad, because they’re missing out.

With the World Cup coming to Brazil next year, and the Olympics two years after that, I’m guessing more Yanks will visit and fall in love with the place like I did.


Trading city crowds for resort town: Days 9 & 10 in Brazil

19 Feb

As I write this, I’m checked into my wonderful $50-a-night (including breakfast) pousada in Barra da Lagoa, Brazil. It’s about a 45-minute local bus ride from the city of Florianopolis.

There are a few key things to know about this area:
1) It’s a laid back resort area with innumerable beaches to choose from. And it’s a surfing mecca.
2) This part of southern Brazil was settled by Germans and Italians, so the locals look more European than in other parts of Brazil. A friend told me the most beautiful women in the country come from Florianopolis.
3) I’m actually on a pretty big island called Santa Catarina. The big city of Floripa, as it is locally known, is on the opposite site of the island from where I am now.

The plan for the next few days basically involves two things: short hikes and beaches. Oh and maybe a boat ride to a particularly beautiful island that has both hikes AND beaches. I do have to go into the big city to do a little shopping for gifts and such to take home. I always do that at the last stop on the trip so I don’t have to carry them around with me as I travel from city to city.

Meantime, let’s back up to Monday morning, my last full day in Rio. That was the morning I chose to visit Corcovado, which is the mountaintop featuring Cristo Redentor, aka Christ the Redeemer. It marks the second “new” wonder of the world I’ve visited (Rome Coliseum being the first).

I took the most commonly used route to the summit, which consists of a 20-minute cog-train ride up to the 2,300-foot high base of the statue. I sat next to a tour-guide leader from Vancouver, B.C. – we compared notes and impressions of Brazil. She envied my independence; I envied the next phase of her trip – the Amazon

Anyway, the statue and summit were so crowded that I couldn’t wait to catch the next train down. Sure the view was nice, but frankly I was getting a little used to Rio’s stunning vistas. They are every direction, all the time.

Monday afternoon I hopped waves again at the beach.

Tuesday morning I caught my flight to Florianopolis. I had enough time after checking in to walk through the town and even visit a small sea-turtle sanctuary and interpretive center. Poor things in their little tanks looked like all they wanted was to crawl the hell out and get thyselves into the ocean.

Here’s the obigatory picture portion of the post:



A crowd gathers on the sidewalk outside a bar to watch a soccer match between teo of Rio’s biggest teams: Flamengo and Botafogo.



The view from atop Corcovado.


The great little pousada I’m in now.


The view from a pedestrian bridge in Barra da Lagoa.


At lower right, fishermen work on their nets.

Rio’s hot and sweaty, but beautiful too: Days 7 & 8 in Brazil

17 Feb

Today’s featured video comes to you from atop a rock outcropping at the east end of Ipanema Beach. It’s the place to be for sunset, and Saturday night was no exception. It wasn’t the most amazing sunset given the clouds, but it was still enough of an experience that everyone joined in a round of applause at the end of it:

But lets rewind to the Saturday morning and recap the events of the weekend:

1) I wandered through the Copacabana neighborhood and along the famous boardwalk. I’m glad I chose to stay in Ipanema because it’s got a better mix of trendiness and beauty.

2) I took the subway to the center of the city where I intended to see the more artsy and bohemiam neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Tereza. Unfortunately, the combination of scary-looking street urchins and stifling heat, plus hillclimbs, sent me scurrying into a slightly more safe area called Gloria. There, I admit, I broke down and had lunch at a McDonald’s, mostly because it had both air-conditioning and a bathroom I could use. See, I really had no choice.

3) From Gloria, I took a bus to the Botanical Garden. The sight was only meh, so let me talk about the buses instead — they’re awesome! From just about any bus stop, if you wait long enough (and usually not long at all), one will come along that’s going to whatever part of the city you want to go. You get on and pay the cashier who sits behind the driver — and she gives change. One tip though: they won’t actually stop unless you flag them down. Oh and some are air-conditioned and some are not. Random, I guess.

4) Sunday morning I caught a bus to Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the must-see sights here. You take two sections of cable car to get to the 1,200-foot summit. Anybody always picture the cable snapping? I do every time. It was pretty hazy so my pictures didn’t turn out that great (see below). I was hoping for a break from the heat because of the higher elevation, but no such luck. I think I saw old people passing out.

5) After returning to Ipanema by bus and eating leftover pizza for lunch, I decided my earlier vow not to go swimming at the beach with 10 million people and instead wait until the next part of my trip for that – well, that was just plain dumb. I went down to Ipanema Beach, found a one-square-foot section of sand in between the masses to leave my sandals, and hit the surf. And oh man was it awesome – the water was the perfect temperature to cool you off (78 F according to one site) and every once in a while a bigger-than-usual wave gave you a rush as you had to decide: Do I merely bounce up with the swell and let it roll by, or will it break before it hits me? When one of these larger waves rolled down the beach, you could hear a succession of gleeful screams. The only reason I left was because my sunscreen was wearing off.

Tonight I’m off to the nearby pay-by-the-kilo buffet. I had it Friday night and it was great. These types of places are very popular here. About one pound of dinner Friday night set me back 25 reals, or $12.50. Tip and beers took it to $24, but that was still a great deal.

Up next: Up early Monday to try and beat both the crowds and the heat at Rio’s No. 1 attraction, Cocovado (Christ the Redeemer statue). Oh you can be sure I’ll be hitting the water again in the afternoon.


Liked this view near the botanical garden.


The sunset scene at Ipanema.


My fav pic of the whole trip so far: dusk sets in at Ipanema.


The view from Sugarloaf Mountain.


And the cable car at Sugarloaf.


The masss at Copacabana Beach on a hot and hazy Sunday.

The most crowded beach I’ve ever seen: Day 6 in Brazil

15 Feb

Because it was a travel day, it’s a short post. Most importantly, watch this:

That’s two blocks from where I’m staying in Rio de Janeiro. It’s warmer than usual (low to mid-90s) so people were hitting the beach in droves, even at 5 p.m. Expected heat index tomorrow: 102. I’ve got the next three days to explore the city (my beach time will come in a less crowded area next week).

Meanwhile, a word of caution for folks planning a trip here: the ATMs like to mess with you. The first three attempts to withdraw cash today failed for no apparent reason. I called the bank back home and they said try again, but at a different bank. That time it worked, for no known reason. Try Banco do Brazil.

Time to get food.

Churches and hill climbs: Day 5 in Brazil

15 Feb

Ouro Preto is an old mining town set amongst massive hills. Today it is a big tourist magnet with 250-year-old colonial architecture and narrow, windy, picturesque streets.

I took two long walks totaling maybe three hours and that was pretty much it. I could have done fine with just a day trip, but then again four hours roundtrip on the bus might have been too much for one day.

The truth is that I’m a big city guy, and this place just doesn’t do it for me.

Next up: A bus ride back to Belo Horizonte for the one-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro. 5 in Brazil

Ouro Preto is an old mining town set amongst massive hills. Today it is a big tourist magnet with 250-year-old colonial architecture and narrow, windy, picturesque streets.

I took two long walks totaling maybe three hours and that was pretty much it. I could have done fine with just a day trip, but then again four hours roundtrip on the bus might have been too much for one day.

The truth is that I’m a big city guy, and this place just doesn’t do it for me.

Next up: A bus ride back to Belo Horizonte for the one-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro.








Modern art and palm trees: Day 4 in Brazil

13 Feb

Bernardo Paz is a Brazilian pig-iron magnate. After collecting modern art for years, he decided to build his own unique place to display it.

The result is the amazing Inhotim (In-YO-cheem), about an hour and a half outside of Belo Horizonte by bus.

It’s essentially a dozen contemporary art galleries and many more open-air installations set within 5,000 acres of a tropical botanical park. It includes the largest collection of palm species in the world – 1,400 of them.

Flowers and hummingbirds were all over and I tried my best to capture them on pixels, below.

The art was worthwhile. My favorites were the works of Leon Ferrari and Tunga. I would have included pix, but it is forbidden. Click on their names to read about them and see their work.

Ferrari’s intense geometric prints are a style I can really relate to. With Tunga, the compositions are amazing in their creativity and imagination.

It took about five hours to cover everything at the park.

This evening, I’m praying my host doesn’t kill me for messing up the programming on the TV remote last night. I tried to fix it and I made things worse! I’m counting on her to let me do a load of laundry tonight …

Next up: Off to Ouro Preto early in the morning for one night in that colonial mining town.


Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.