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Rio de Janeiro!

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Ipanema Beach — amazing even on a cold, cloudy day!

Rio blew me away.  I was excited to go to Brazil, but I didn’t really care if we visited the big city.  While I’m a big fan of the movie City of God, it, as well as articles and documentaries about street kids, favelas and drug gangs, made me think the city would be an overcrowded, filthy quagmire of pick pockets and violence.

It shines despite all that.

And, while we were warned by locals to watch our valuables and not stray into the bad areas (which we decided wasn’t meant for us to see), crime did not come our way.  Vendors and passersby were fun, polite and busy with their own lives.

Rio is, by far, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever had the luck to visit.

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OMG that view!

We spent two days in Rio, so there’s plenty we didn’t get to see.  We did get in some highlights:  Ipanema Beach, drove by Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer, a colorful tiled stairway, and Sugarloaf — plus a few cafe restaurants.

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I loved all of the street art.  I could spend a day just walking the streets to admire all of the urban paintings.

On our last night in Brazil we took the cable car to the tippy top of Sugar Loaf and sipped bevies to toast our time here and just sip and stare at its glory.  We will be back to tour this land again.  Next time we’d also like to see more of other parts of the country.  Until then Saude, Brasil!

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Brazil diary…

We’re back in Mons after a whirlwind trip.  While we were in Brazil, I usually woke earlier than most of our crew, climbed to the upstairs balcony of ‘our’ beach house, and either read or wrote.  I didn’t have time to post any of it until now.

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July 21

This is my view right this second.  As will be the case with the rest of my photos it can’t possibly do Brazil justice.  The magic of travel isn’t in the party snaps or our landscape shots; it’s the inhaling/exhaling life in another corner of the world. You just can’t post the layers, the sounds, the scents, the soul —- no matter how good you are with filters and angles.

We’re staying at a friend’s family home in Angra de Reis (Port of Kings), a famous beach town nestled among the mountains about a two-hour drive from Rio. So, once again we are blessed to vacation with people who actually live here —- as well as with a group of friends whose mantra has become, “this soooo doesn’t suck.”

Snaps of the nearby beach life.  OMG that dog broke my heart.  She decided we needed to be her people, and we so would’ve kept her had we been able to.

Yesterday Wilber’s mom graced us with Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian bean and meat stew. She and her husband cooked all day while we napped, read, and watched Brazilian families sing, dance, swim at the beach.

On Thursday we rode a party boat to four of the 300-plus islands that bud off the coast. We ate amazing seafood, drank bevies with freshly-squeezed juice, partied with locals (and other tourists), swam in the Blue Lagoon, strolled the beach of what-felt-like a deserted island, relaxed at an open-air restaurant (more seafood please), and rocked and lulled our way through sunset.  Then we put on our sarongs, ripped off our wet bathing suits and ended the night at a beachside bar watching a guy sing Brazilian country music.

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What a day this was!

Someone is practicing the flute while I type this.  Booty-shaking music blasts from another house closer to shore. Children squeal while playing soccer.  Birds gossip about whose laying whom’s eggs.  Stray dogs shade themselves under tropical bushes, waiting for suckers like me to coo over them.  Tourist (or those of the wealthy) helicopters hover above, until it’s their turn to land on the numerous helipads scattered among the islands.  And, the annoying chihuha mix across the street is barking at all of us:  there’s always that one guy that’s gotta mess up the rhythm!

We also spent a day in Rio, and we’re spending a night there next week, so I’ll do a separate Rio blog.

July 22

It rained throughout the night, so this morning is blessedly cool.  While it may be winter in Brazil, it certainly isn’t cold.  Mist devours surrounding mountains; birds circling above the trees disappear into its density. The Atlantic pounds the coast. A grandmother scolds the young while she begins the long process of cooking today’s Sunday meal.  The clanking of her pots and pans adds to the disco (seriously!) music reverberating from a neighbouring house.  Rooftop satellite dishes taunt the few remaining anorexic rooftop antennas.  My cohorts are still snuggled in their beds since we exhausted ourselves touristing yesterday.

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The plan was to end the night Sambaing in the streets of Angra, but all but one of us was done. It’s all good because as curvy and wild as the roads are, we unintentionally sambaed our asses in the car.

We spent the day at a beach near Paroty, which was surreal.  You can either wade through a frigid canal (the water comes from a nearby waterfall) or pay 1 real for a boat to take you across to the beach (no brainer on which option we chose!).  Then you have the choice to either lounge on the beach or take another boat (lol the Shrek) to a nearby island to do the same.  This beach’s water is calm because it’s surrounded by islands that tame the feral waves, but there’s plenty of fun going on inland.

Behind the sea are mountains on top of mountains, and surrounding the beach is a small farm with chickens so tall they could be poultry runway models.  There’s also a restaurant, so we got to gorge on more fish, sausage, acai (it’s served with bananas and nuts), beer and a freshly-squeezed pineapple juice drink.

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After that we walked the large-cobblestone streets of Paroty.  I’ll never bitch about navigating the  streets of Mons again.  Brazilians used boulders to cobble their streets.  It’s a lovely town of artists, musicians, shops and restaurants.  Sadly, one of our crew had to leave to continue her summer journey.  Another one of us leaves tonight, and the rest of us leave on Wednesday.  In too short a time we’ll be back to the rhythm of our routines —-maybe being envied by tourists visiting our corners of the world?

July 25

We fly out early tonight.  The boys are packing up their suitcases; Joe is reading on his phone.  It’s been an amazing trip.  Our last night in Angra was spent whooping it up with Wilber’s family.  Oh my God did they ever cook up a storm.  Brazilian barbecues are the best.  Basically, you sit around drinking beer or calparihnas, laughing and waiting for platters of meat to be passed around.  There’s also salad, a Yucca condiment (basically yummy crumblies you put on top of stuff), spicy oil, rice, and this amazing garlic bread concoction —- it’s grilled and stuffed with sausage, butter, mayonnaise and other goodness (I’ll try to replicate it with my sandwich grill!).

I’ve already bored you with too many words on a trip that can’t be done justice with pics and words, so I’ll end this with a thank you to Wilber’s family and Brazil for welcoming us to this layered, complex-yet simple haven.  Yes I know there is an incredible amount of awfulness here too, and, yes, we totally avoided the poverty-crime stricken areas, so our view is biased.  It always saddens and surprises me that the most beautiful places in the world (with the most amazing people) are always partnered with corruption and violence.  So, I’m even more grateful for the good we get to experience.

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