I decided to put this together mostly for the sake of my mother, so she knows where I’ll be. And because I’m a firm believer that people who are addicted to travel as I am probably get more satisfaction out of planning a trip than experiencing the trip itself.
To get you in the spirit of this trip, here’s a clip from one of my favorite films, “Central Station.” It’s the story of a letter writer in Rio who befriends an orphan against her better judgment and ends up being changed by the experience. You really should see it if you ever get the chance.
Tampa to Sao Paulo
The trip starts in Tampa because I’m checking in at Mom’s house for a week down in Clearwater, Fla. I think of it as a transition zone between Seattle’s chilly winter and Brazil’s sweltering summer.
I’m flying Delta from Tampa to Sao Paulo, leaving about 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8 and arriving in Brazil about 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. It’s not exactly the most direct routing however — I fly north to New York’s JFK airport to catch the long flight to Sao Paulo.
If you’re not real familiar with S.P., here’s the scoop:
1) It’s the 11th largest city in the world, with a population of 21 million. It’s just a hair smaller than New York City.
2) Like Manhattan, it’s a concrete jungle. Just check out the pic.
3) The city’s known for its fascinating modern architecture and great food, both of which I hope to explore.
A friend of a friend who lives there is providing me with some tips before I arrive. I’m probably most excited about going to see a Corinthians soccer match. Corinthians of Sao Paulo is probably the second-most popular team in all of Brazil. The game is the same night as I arrive in the city, so hopefully I won’t be completely dog tired. Check out the video here for a taste of what that might be like.
I’ve also learned a lot about Corinthians from this guy: 10KJuan. He’s from Miami but lives in S.P. now, and he wrote this wonderful post about how he chose Corinthians as his team to support in Sao Paulo. He’s offered to give me some advice about going to the game.
I’ve booked an apartment via Airbnb.com. It’s in a neighborhood called Jardins, which is supposed to be one of the nicest areas of town. Here’s lots more info about the apartment, with more pictures (why so many of the hookah pipe? Hmmm). The balcony looks to be a nice feature. And Nissa, the host, seems very helpful. Here’s a Google Maps link to the address.
Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte
On Tuesday morning, Feb. 12, I catch a one-hour flight from Congonhas airport to Belo Horizonte. “B.H.” as it’s called, is the third largest city in Brazil, with a population of 5.3 million.
I’m not really going there to visit Belo Horizonte proper, however. I’m basically using it as a jumping-off point to visit a couple of truly fascinating places.
That said, the first day I get there is Fat Tuesday, and of course Brazil is known for its Carnaval celebrations, so … I have no idea what it will be like. I’m hoping for impromptu street bands and samba dancing, if all goes well. Here’s a video showing what happens in B.H. for Carnaval. I see drunk people. Lots of them.
Assuming I can get up early the next morning, I’m taking a bus an hour or two out of town to place called Inhotim (In-YO-Cheen). I wasn’t planning to go here until my host for two nights in B.H. (see below), Carla, insisted I do so.
Inhotim is the brainchild/obsession of a Brazilian pig-iron millionaire. It’s a huge botanical park that serves as the venue for an amazing museum of contemporary art. I love botanical parks, and the art seems truly inspired. Will I be able to handle the tropical heat?
I take the bus back in the afternoon for my second and final night at Carla’s in B.H. Here’s info about the room I’m renting in her house, with more pictures. And here’s a link to the address in Google Maps.
On Thursday, Feb. 14, I say goodbye to Carla and catch a bus to the colonial town of Ouro Preto. Everybody raves about this hill town that was once the heart of Brazil’s mining district. “Ouro Preto” is Portuguese for “black gold.” I have less than a full day here, but that should be enough to walk around and experience the place.
For my one night in Ouro Preto, I’m booked at easily the nicest and most expensive place of the whole trip: The Lacos de Minas. One night of luxury out of 13, lol.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations – you’re a trooper. We’re now halfway through the trip.
Belo Horizonte to Rio de JaneiroOn the morning of Friday, Feb. 15, I catch a bus back to Belo Horizonte and its airport to catch a one-hour flight to Rio de Janeiro.
When people think of Brazil, they think of the dramatic vistas this city is famous for: the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. And of course the beaches, with the storied names of Ipanema and Copacabana. All that’s fine, but I’m hoping to explore the neighborhoods and see the real Rio.
When people think of neighborhoods in Rio, often the favelas come to mind, aka shanty towns. My impression of the favelas comes from the fantastic movie “City of God.” Here’s a clip:
Don’t worry — I’m not going to go seeking out a drug war. There’s a bit of an industry around favela tours these days, but that concept kind of appalls me. Truth be known, things have reportedly improved from the days when state police used to just cruise around killing suspected troublemakers on sight.
I’m staying at a two-room B&B in Ipanema for four nights. Carlos is my host, and he seems very helpful so far. It’s a five-minute walk to the beach, and it faces the square that holds a “hippie fair” every Sunday. Oh joy. Here’s a link to a Google Map of the address.
Rio to FlorianopolisOn Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, I catch another short flight south to Florianopolis, aka Floripa (Flor-EE-pa).
This island resort area looks amazing. Beach after beach and park after park. If I’m lucky, I’ll find some great snorkeling.
A hammock outside my room? I can deal with that.
Florianopolis to Seattle (via New York City)
On the evening of Friday, Feb. 22, it’s time to say ciao to Brazil and catch my flight home. After a short flight up to Sao Paulo, I catch the overnighter to New York JFK.
But I have a 12-hour layover in New York, which is a good thing: It gives me a chance to pop over to the city and see some friends I have not seen in a long time. Looking forward to that.
I don’t get back home until late night on Saturday, Feb. 23. One tired puppy.